Under the direction of artist and educator, Philip McGaw, the Saint Joseph School art curriculum for Kindergarten through Grade 8 is centered around learning the elements of art and design. Throughout this structure, discussions and activities include an incorporation of art history, color theory and critical thinking, often incorporating subject matter which is of specific interest to a particular class.
Each element (color, shape, form, line, texture, rhythm, symmetry, value and space) is taught along with techniques to practice in depth the true meaning of the element of art we are studying (for example, in a combination of learning about value and atmospheric perspective, students paint a value scale in the form of a mountain range). Often, Ms. Bonner will show the children examples of professional artists who practice the specific element being discussed (for example, when practicing the stippling technique, the class discusses the history of pointillism, and views work by Georges Seurat)
The first portion of the class period focuses on a discussion, demonstration, or video in preparation for the activity. The second portion of the class period is spent creating artwork inspired by the preparation.
Some longer projects are spread over several months and contain a number of corresponding lessons within them. For example, Grades 7 and 8 study the process of film-making, which contains lessons on visual composition, the rule of thirds, scale, balance, color theory, etc., at the end of which each class will have produced several short films.
Students are exposed to a wide variety of materials throughout the year, including (but not limited to), acrylic paint, tempera paint, vine and compressed charcoal, kneaded and gum erasers, professional drawing pencils, oil pastel, watercolor paint, clay, crayon, colored pencil, marker, acrylic medium, printmaking and so on.
There are a few weeks throughout the year that the students take breaks in order to complete projects outside of the curriculum. These weeks are during the Christmas season, Square One Art, and the week of Dr. Seuss's birthday.
Early Childhood Program art lessons are similar to those in Kindergarten, however, they are run differently in that Ms. Bonner introduces the lessons with a book related to the project they are creating. ECP art lessons are also occasionally followed by free art, in which the students "play" with things like play-doh, bingo dobbers, etc., and do free draw.
Mr. McGaw's main priority as an art educator is to introduce the children of Saint Joseph School to an in depth study of the arts that not only fascinates them, but also is fun, so that learning comes easily.